Many people have questions about commissioning new pieces of music. On this page I’ve compiled a list of questions; some I have been asked directly, and others that I think are more universal. If you have any questions that are not answered here, feel free to and ask!
“Why should I commission new music when there’s so much classical music that already exists?”
One of the main reasons that all of that great music of the past exists is because it was commissioned. Patrons, performers, ensembles and performing arts organizations felt it was important to foster creation of music of their own time, by composers that had a firm grip on the pulse of their society. Commissioning music of our own time is just as important – considering the amount of music being performed that is not of our own time, it is perhaps even more important these days.
“I know 100 other composers that will compose music for me for free. Why should I pay for new music?”
There are many reasons to commission new music from a composer whose music you love. When you make an investment in the future of music, you can impress your own cultural and artistic values on that legacy (not to mention your name). In doing so, you will feel closer and more involved with the music, and your sense of personal pride with this music will be that much stronger. This is something you helped create, and will continue to help foster and grow, and share with the world. I also firmly believe in the old adage, you get what you pay for. Once you become a patron and advocate for music of your own time, you’ll want to help create more and more of it.
“Why should I commission new music – I don’t even like new music!”
This is the most free and diversified period in the history of music. If you don’t like the new music you’ve heard up to this point, don’t give up on it! The diversity of styles of music, even within classical music today, is staggering and eclipses any and all previous musical periods by a long way. If you don’t like what you’ve heard, I promise there is someone out there writing something that will blow your socks off – you just have to find them. Once you do, if you’re a performer, commission them – if you’re a listener, buy their music.
“How much does it cost to commission a new piece of music?”
The organization Meet the Composer has published a general guideline on the commissioning of music. It can be viewed here. However, the budget of an individual can differ greatly from the budget of a large performing arts organization, so this guide should be taken as a general idea. Fees can be suited to the individual budget of the commissioner.
One great way to commission is to gather a group of individuals, performers/ensembles or organizations and do a joint commission. All parties would share the music, and can work with the composer to set up multiple premiers and community events.
“So, I’m a performer and I want to commission a piece. How much say do I get in the creative process?”
Personally, I love the collaborative process, and I like the commissioner to be as involved with the creation of the piece as possible. This can be, for example, picking out text for song settings, or specifying a mood or emotion. It can also be specifying overall length, number of movements, instrumentation, etc. One thing most composers would not want to hear would be something like, “Can you write me a piece that sounds like Philip Glass?” It’s important to remember that you are commissioning the composer for their music. If you want the music of another composer, you should commission that composer.